Defensemen help Ice Dogs rebound in lopsided win

  • By Brad Joyal, BJOYAL@NEWSMINER.COM
  • Mar 11, 2018

FAIRBANKS — The best teams don’t have any weak links. Not at forward, not on defense and certainly not at goaltender.

Although a defenseman’s top priority is to prevent teams from scoring, sometimes they need to help provide offense, too.

On Saturday night, when Fairbanks hosted Midwest Division rival Springfield in a series finale, the Ice Dogs defensemen chipped in at both ends of the ice.

The blueliners accounted for four goals, as Fairbanks bounced back from Friday’s 5-3 loss in a dominant 6-1 victory over Springfield at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

“It was absolutely crucial (to win) tonight,” Ice Dogs defenseman Kyle Mayhew said. “Championship teams don’t lose two in a row, let alone three in a row. We can’t lose many games in a row if we want to go for the Robertson (Cup).”

Mayhew was among the Fairbanks blueliners who had a big night in the win. He scored twice — including a shorthanded goal that gave the team its 6-1 advantage with 5:01 remaining.

The Ice Dogs’ captain, Luke Orysiuk, added a goal and three assists, and defenseman Noah Wilson also found the back of the net for Fairbanks, which improved to 40-6-3-3 on the season.

Wilson’s goal set the tone for the remainder of the game. He put a wrist shot past Springfield (25-21-5-1) starting goaltender Jurja Ovecka to give the Ice Dogs a 1-0 lead just 20 seconds into the contest.

“I was a bit surprised to be honest,” Wilson said. “I’m not much of a goal scorer. For me to get out there and get a first-shift goal like that really got the boys going.”

It was Wilson’s fourth goal of the season. He also tickled the twine Saturday when Ice Dogs defensemen accounted for all three goals — Orysiuk and Mayhew also scored in the loss.

Even though Wilson, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, might not see himself as much of an offensive threat, he knows Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart likes to see his defensemen involved.

“He lets us go and run up the ice, but we’re obviously still efficient at the defensive end,” Wilson said. “When you get goals coming from the defense it makes things easier for our forwards.”

Mayhew agreed, noting that Stewart, who manned the blue line at the University of Connecticut from 2003-07, encourages the defensemen to make plays.

“He always tells us to get up in the play and be active,” he said.

Although the blueliners came up big, the forwards played a big role in the blowout win, too.

Forward Hunter Wendt extended the team’s lead to 2-0 when he beat Ovecka (19 saves) for a power-play goal 15:40 into the first period. Another forward, Robert Blueger, made it 5-0 when he buried his 14th goal of the season at the 19:39 mark of the second frame.

Fairbanks goaltender Logan Neaton was superb, stopping all but one of the 17 shots he faced to secure the win.

Max Brainin netted the Jr. Blues’ only goal, as he beat Neaton on a man-advantage 12:08 into the third period.

After dropping their past two games — the Ice Dogs suffered a 2-1 shootout loss at Shreveport last weekend — the Ice Dogs were eager to snap their losing streak before they host the Janesville Jets for a three-game series next weekend at the Big Dipper.

“We wanted this one really bad,” Wilson said. “As much as it’s always good to win, I think it’s good for us to experience that feeling and know what it feels like so we know how much we hate (losing).”

Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMSportsGuy.